Something more serious might be keeping you from the sleep you need.
While a few restless nights may not be a big deal, getting consistently poor sleep can really take a toll on your health. You might have even tried establishing healthier daytime and nighttime habits to improve your sleep, such as limiting your caffeine intake, getting more exercise, setting a regular bedtime routine, or limiting your screen time.
If you are still tossing and turning, it’s possible that something serious could be keeping you from getting the deep, restorative sleep your mind and body need in order to stay healthy.
A sleep disorder is anything that consistently gets in the way of good sleep—it affects your energy level, mood, productivity, and cognitive function. It can also lead to more critical problems down the road, including conditions like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
If you’re regularly having trouble sleeping OR experiencing daytime fatigue even though you thought you slept soundly through the night, it might be time to talk to a doctor about your concerns.
Your healthcare provider can help identify the source of your sleep problems and provide appropriate treatment options to help get you back on track to being your Best Slept SelfTM.
When to See a Doctor
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do I have trouble getting to sleep and/or staying asleep?
- Do I feel tired or exhausted during the day, even after going to bed at a decent time and feeling like I slept through the night?
If you answered “Yes” to one or both questions, consider scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider sooner rather than later to discuss your concerns. Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps to getting the healthy sleep that your body needs.
Signs and Symptoms of Common Sleep Disorders
Knowing the signs and symptoms may also help you assess if you have a common sleep disorder. Below are the descriptions and symptoms of some common sleep disorders.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical disorder characterized by irregular or interrupted breathing when you sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of sleep apnea, happens when the muscles in the back of your throat cause the airway to narrow or close when you breathe. This loss of air lowers your blood oxygen level, and makes your brain trigger a signal to wake up. If you have sleep apnea, your breathing can stop hundreds of times each night.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
- Feeling tired even though you sleep through the night
- Chronic, loud snoring
Are you waking up each morning feeling tired, even though you go to bed at a decent time and think you sleep well through the night? Is your partner constantly complaining about your noisy nightly snoring? If so, you could be one of the millions of Americans suffering from sleep apnea.
Why See a Doctor About Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea disrupts your sleep and prevents you from drifting into the deeper, restorative sleep cycles and REM sleep. It can rob you of health benefits your mind and body need to take place, like muscle repair and short- and long-term memory support. This can have negative long-term effects on your health.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that disturbs a person’s ability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Chronic insomnia—the more serious form of the condition—happens at least three nights per week for at least three months and is treated through lifestyle changes, cognitive therapy, and medical intervention.
- Inability or trouble going to sleep at your regular bedtime
- Having trouble going back to sleep after waking up during the night
Why See a Doctor About Insomnia
Insomnia is a clinical diagnosis. If you think you might be one of the 40 million Americans that experience insomnia every year, talking to your doctor about lifestyle changes, cognitive therapy, and prescription or non-prescription medicines may help.
All that tossing and turning takes a toll on your sleep routine and hurts your ability to function during the day. If you’re not getting the amount of deep, healthy sleep you need, your concentration and cognitive function all take a hit—and you definitely don’t feel like your Best Slept Self™.
When insomnia is left untreated, it can lead to serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Insomnia also can increase the likelihood of dangerous workplace incidents and car accidents.
If you feel sleepy, groggy, or tired during the day on a regular basis, you might be among the estimated 20% of the population that suffers from excessive sleepiness. Also called hypersomnia, you might have extreme sleepiness if you experience extreme fatigue during the day even when you are getting what should be enough sleep.
Excessive Sleepiness Symptoms
- Unshakeable daytime tiredness, even though you are getting what should be enough sleep
- Daytime drowsiness
- Anxiety, irritability
Why See a Doctor About Excessive Sleepiness
Excessive sleepiness can have serious side effects. You could be so tired that you fall asleep in dangerous situations—while driving, or operating machinery. It also can cause you to perform poorly at work and can hurt your memory, motivation, and attention span.
Your doctor can help determine the underlying causes of your excessive sleepiness and establish if the cause is medical or if it’s related to recent lifestyle changes.
Being so tired that you suddenly fall asleep at unusual and inappropriate times might be a serious condition called narcolepsy. Waking up feeling rested and alert only to have trouble staying awake for long periods of time is also common among narcolepsy sufferers. This chronic sleep disorder is a neurological condition that tends to appear in childhood or young adulthood but also can occur at any life age.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- “Sleep Attacks” where you suddenly fall asleep, even in the middle of a conversation or task
- Waking up feeling alert and well-rested, but often having trouble staying awake for long periods of time
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on normal daytime activities
Why See a Doctor About Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy makes it hard to cope with daily life. Falling asleep suddenly during important meetings or at social functions makes it difficult to excel at work and school, and negatively impacts personal and social relationships. When “sleep attacks” occur during activities like driving or cooking, it can also be dangerous to you and those around you.
If You Think You Have A Sleep Disorder, Talk To Your Doctor Sooner Than Later
Don’t disregard the signs of a sleep disorder. If you’re noticing a pattern of poor sleep or exhaustion during the daytime, it’s important to discuss your sleep issues with your doctor as soon as possible so you can start treatment and get on the right path to healthier sleep.